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As with much of the world, Australia experienced significant social and cultural transformations during the 1950s. The end of World War II and the onset of the Cold War influenced its foreign and domestic policies, and its urge to accelerate economic growth spurred radical changes in its approach to immigration.
On the foreign policy front, in September 1951, Australia joined with the United States and New Zealand to form the "Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty," known as ANZUS, intended to protect Western interests against the perceived threat from communist expansionism in the Asia Pacific region. Prime Minister Robert Menzies, a staunch anti-communist and forceful advocate of securing Western interests throughout the region, tied his country's defense to that of the United States while remaining committed to Australia's historical relationship to Great Britain. For the remainder of the decade, and for the remainder of the Cold War, Australia would stay close to the U.S. and the U.K. on security and economic matters.
Queen Elizabeth's visit to Australia in 1954 was considered an important event in the symbolic value it had for the relationship between the two countries. Menzies and many other Australians continued to view their country as a part of the United Kingdom, although certainly retaining its independence, which it inaugurated at the beginning of the 20th Century.
One of the more significant events in Australia during the 1950s was the 1956 Melbourne Summer Olympics. The awarding to Australia of this highly prestigious event was considered a major accomplishment and was a source of great pride to Australians.
The most significant transformations occurring in Australia during the 1950s was social and cultural. First, the emergence and proliferation of new technologies, particularly television, combined with the increasing access to American radio and film resulted the formerly predominant British cultural influences being supplanted by those from America. American television programming and the prevalence of American movies in Australian theaters caused a social transformation that tilted Australia further towards the United States.
Finally, Australia's efforts at building its economy required an influx of laborers from other countries. The 1950s, consequently, witnessed a massive tide of immigrants, mostly from Europe, into Australia to fill the employment needs of the country's growing industries. The long-term result of this wave of migrants, numbering over one million during that decade alone, was a fundamental transformation in Australia's demographics and culture.
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